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Signs In The Rearview Mirror: Leaving A Toxic Relationship Behind by Kelly Smith — [BOOK REVIEW]

As we enter new relationships, we go in blind. For the
most part, we trust until we are given reasons not to. ~ Kelly Smith, Signs In The Rearview Mirror

Author: Kelly Smith  Publisher: Sunny Day Publishing LCC   My rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥
Signs In The Rearview Mirror: Leaving Toxic Relationships Behind is a first hand account of how easily we can slip into the worst situations with the best intentions. In her novel, Smith reveals how the tiniest of choices – the ones we scarcely think about – play a large role in where we end up in life, but she shows, through her own experiences, that there is hope for those struggling to leave a toxic relationship.
What I loved: Smith’s honesty is refreshing. She doesn’t glamorize her life or sugarcoat the difficulties of marriage. As I read, I learned about her circumstances growing up and instantly connected with her, because I had similar experiences and I felt she was brave for being able to talk about them openly. When it comes to family, people tend to put on a face and pretend everything is fine, even when it isn’t. Smith doesn’t do that. Signs In The Rearview Mirror rips off the mask to show how our earliest beginnings lend to the creation of who we are.
Smith owns her demons. She admits her faults. She examines what she could have done differently. As humans, we can only truly see all the pieces in hindsight and sometimes those pieces are lost to the moments we lived.

I faked being happy with the way my life was going. Truth be told, I felt defeated, destroyed. I was in pieces and I needed some time to feel and recover from the end of my marriage. I needed to be on my own to figure out who I was.

Smith captures this perfectly as she admits to being abusive, on some level, to her husband Derek. She doesn’t assign blame or point fingers, she simply acknowledges that something was fundamentally broken between them and she played a part in that. It’s rare to find a narrative where there isn’t blame or feelings of intense anger of a life wasted, but Smith doesn’t cloud the story with overly sentimental or emotional tributes to the past. She tries to understand the history of her life in an effort to move forward.
And she doesn’t gloss over the abuse. She doesn’t try to lessen the blows or down play the events. I found myself shaking my head through her experiences out of compassion and understanding and horror for what was happening to her. She describes the cycle of abuse known only to those who have been at the receiving end: the whirlwind confusion, the constant feelings of never being enough, the inevitable name-calling matches, the one-sided apologies given by those who have done nothing wrong….

For the first time in my entire life, a man was calling me a bitch… a whore. He was screaming at me and telling me that I had embarrassed him and myself in front of his family.

What I wasn’t crazy about: The time-memory hopping was difficult to keep up with at times, particularly the sections that weren’t labeled with a year and location, but in the end, I chalked this up to the flaws of memory. Past moments intrude without permission, random details call upon a vision long-since forgotten, and nothing comes in order. And so, even though I wasn’t crazy about this deliverance of details, I think it worked in a way that shows how random memories can seem.
Conclusion: Signs In the Rearview Mirror is not just a warning of how toxic relationships happen, it’s a promise that breaking free from them holds more than remaining in the cage of another’s control. As someone who has been in a toxic relationship myself, I recognized the signs and instantly connected with Smith. I empathized and had compassion, and I found myself rooting for her to break free. You’re better than him, I wanted to say. You don’t need him. 
I would recommend this book to anyone, whether they have been in a toxic relationship or not, because chances are, you know someone who has.

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